Ramona Zacharias’s Year in Quotes
Ramona looks back over her interviews from 2016, and shares some of her favorite quotes.
Choosing a mere ten quotes from my interviews of last year has proved to be quite the challenge!
Every person I had the privilege of speaking with in 2016 – whether they were a screenwriter, showrunner or author – had a wealth of experience to share. What they learned and what they loved, what frustrates them and what it takes to get the job done.
I learned a lot from our conversations, and I think that the excerpts below offer a glimpse into what these writers had to offer. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed putting them together, and of course, don’t forget that you can click on any of the links to read the full interviews.
Stay true to your vision.
When you have this many stakeholders and you have that many producers, that many real people that you’re working with…you have to be true to your vision. Because you’re not going to please absolutely everybody. Remind yourself: “I have a voice, I have something to say, I know why I wanted to write this movie”. Having your own strong point of view is essentially why they hired you in the first place! So try to hold onto that in the midst of all the craziness.
Don’t get carried away in the writers’ room.
One of the many benefits of working with a group of smart people is that somebody always tells you you’re drunk and that you need to sit down. Self-restraint is actually a very good thing, especially when you’re in it for the long haul and you want to tell a story that lasts at least three or four or five seasons.
Don’t overstuff your screenplay.
You don’t want a screenplay to be too complete. Because if a screenplay is utterly complete, there’s no room for the performers. You are creating something with enough air in it that a performer can come in and fill it up. That’s the trick.
I think we have a fascination with stories that are so convoluted that part of the joke is how hard it is to pitch it. Everyone at school tells you “Elevator pitch – go!” and you say “OK, it’s Die Hard, but in Sears” or “it’s Romeo and Juliet, but with dogs”…we get a kick out of making incredibly convoluted stories. For us, when all the pieces started falling together and it was impossible to pitch, we thought “this is pretty good”.
Don’t use empty words.
Language by itself is just a vessel. It’s empty. The meaning comes from the story that you’re telling, and if you haven’t dug deep and got that story down, what do you have to express in language? Nothing.
Follow your heart but use your head.
You need to love the work enough and be prepared to have the door close in your face quite a lot. And there will be lean times when you aren’t making the money and when you have to take jobs that you wish you didn’t because you need to keep the lights on in your house. You need to love the process of writing enough that it can sustain you through those harder times.
Use Scrivener…Write standing up…Set timers…I think practical advice is more useful than anything else. I kind of feel like, in a way, all of the screenwriting technique books are telling me something I intrinsically know. It’s really interesting to have it spelt out. But it’s like telling me why a song is catchy, do you know what I mean?
Keep ‘em guessing.
Read, then write.
You are in the business of language. Other people are in charge of the camera, other people are in charge of donuts on the set. The director’s in charge of everything. Your profession is a profession of words. And the only way you’ll get there is just by stuffing your brain with novels, history, essays. So read, read, read.
It’s the not-so-little things.
There are no small things. The details really, really matter, especially when you’re trying to capture something honestly. If one little detail is off, I think that can lift an audience out of the film.